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Home > Feature Articles > Agriculture & Organic Production

High Rise Farms and Vertical Urban Agriculture

Horizontal farming is failing to keep up with demand and new urban agriculture solutions are being developed

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indoor plants reduce air pollution for health By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. With a raft of studies suggesting farmers will be hard-pressed to feed the extra 3 billion people swelling the world’s ranks by the year 2050, Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier believes a new model of agriculture is vital to avoid an impending catastrophe.

"The reason why we need vertical farming is that horizontal farming is failing," he said. If current practices don’t change by mid-century, he points outs, an area bigger than Brazil would need to become farmland just to keep pace with the demand.

Working the soil has always been an uncertain venture, and Despommier argues that the price of crop failure is growing ever steeper as the global population mushrooms. "The world is running out of resources faster than what it can replace."

Dickson Despommier has established The Vertical Farm (see:www.verticalfarm.com) as a theoretical construct to look at the possibility of agricultural sustainability within cities. The idea grew out of a class project to measure the effects of rooftop gardening in New York City on reducing the dome of heat that develops over us each year. From that original idea, he expanded the concept to include urban agriculture and finally to multi-story indoor farming. He have given this project to his students in my course, "Medical Ecology" (see: www.medicalecology.org), and each year they have added more and more detail to the original framework.

"In 2003, I participated in a studio in the School of Architecture with Dr. Richard Plunz and his students, in which the vertical farm figured as a main feature of urban planning and design schemes to rehabilitate the Gowanus Canal district of Brooklyn. It was quite successful and continues to be one of the more popular studios. Sustainable urban life is now a major interest of mine. Inventing new approaches to the raising of food within the confines of a large urban center is bound to be fraught with hidden pitfalls and caveats when starting out, particularly those of a technical and economic nature.

"I firmly believe that with enough input from multiple disciplines (e.g., industrial and soil microbiology, engineering, public health, policy making, urban planning, architecture, agronomy, plant genetics, economics), vertical farming could become a reality and thus replace most of what now passes for agriculture in many parts of the developed and under-developed world. If this were to come about, large tracts of land could then be returned to nature to do what it was supposed to do for us before we eliminated the hardwood forests of the eastern states. Restoring ecosystem services and functions is what I envision as the charge to the next generation of public health professionals."

RESOURCES:
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

ATTRA State program links

Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D.
Email ddd1@columbia.edu
Phone (212) 305-1494
Fax (212) 342-1952
Snail Attn: Dr. Dickson Despommier
Environmental Health Science of Columbia University
60 Haven Ave. Room 100
New York, NY 10032
www.verticalfarm.com



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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